Caveat on displacement figures for the North-West and South-West crisis
The estimated figures of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and returnees in the North-West, South-West, Littoral, West and Centre regions mentioned in the HNO and HRP 2021 documents are based on multi-sectoral needs assessments (MSNAs) conducted in August and September 2020 under the leadership of OCHA. The IDP and returnee figures validated by the Cameroonian Ministry of Territorial Administration (MINAT) for these regions are lower: 130,000 IDPs in the North-West region, 90,000 IDPs in the South-West region, 105,000 returnees in the North-West and South-West regions, 12,000 IDPs in the Littoral region, 11,350 IDPs in the Centre region and 20,000 IDPs in the West region. OCHA under the leadership of the Humanitarian Coordinator has agreed with MINAT to review the IDP figures jointly in the course of 2021, based on a joint data collection exercise.
Impact of the Crisis and Humanitarian Conditions
Context of the Crisis
Cameroon continues to be affected by three, concurrent, complex humanitarian situations: displacement caused by continuous violence in the Lake Chad Basin and in the North-West and South-West regions and the presence of over 280,000 refugees from the Central African Republic (CAR) in the eastern regions (East, Adamawa and North). Humanitarian needs are compounded by structural development deficits and chronic vulnerabilities that further challenge the long-term recovery of affected people. Resources used to address the insecurity in the Far North and the North-West and South-West regions lead to even less State funding for the development of basic social services. The COVID-19 pandemic affected the population with over 24,500 cases confirmed and 441 deaths as of 2 December and has significantly reduced public and private revenues in Cameroon forcing the Government to reduce its 2020 global budget. In addition, the COVID-19 prevention and response measures led to an increase of costs for humanitarian operations.
Political, socio-cultural, demographic and economic profiles
The Republic of Cameroon ranks 150 out of 189 on the Human Development Index (UNDP, 2019). 39 per cent of the country's population lives below the poverty line. The country ranks 141 among the 189 countries as per its level of gender inequality. The inequality index reveals significant disparities in the three key dimensions of human development: (1) reproductive health, (2) education and (3) access to employment. Gender relations and the perception that women and men have of their role and that of the opposite sex anchor, justify and maintain unequal practices within households and society. The effects of structural gender-based discrimination against women and girls are aggravated in some of the regions affected by crises.
Despite proving resilient to shocks including the 2014 oil crisis and acute crises in the Lake Chad Basin and the North-West and South-West regions, Cameroon’s economic growth is hampered by structural factors including the over-reliance on oil, high debt levels, and limited investment in job creating sectors, especially agriculture. As a result, Cameroon failed to reach its objective of achieving an average 5.5 annual per cent growth during the 2010-2020 timeframe of its Growth and Employment Strategy Paper.
In the Far North, particularly in the Lake Chad Basin area, the economic context is marked by poverty, the lack of natural resources and job and market opportunities, as well as a drastic reduction in agriculture, livestock production and tourist activities due to prevalent insecurity. Agricultural activity has come to a standstill in areas prone to repeated incursions by non-State armed groups (NSAGs) and environmental constraints, exacerbated by climate change. Meanwhile, the agro-pastoral economy is negatively impacted by the disruption of seasonal transhumance as main border transit points with Nigeria are closed and as herders transit livestock to avoid risk areas.
In the North-West and South-West regions, on-going violence and regular lockdowns have had a major impact on the local economies. Violence and insecurity have resulted in major displacement, affecting agricultural yields in the North-West and the abandonment of large parts of fruit, palm and rubber plantations in the South-West. Ethnic and political tensions between farmers and herders persist. Furthermore, the border with Nigeria, Africa’s greatest economy, is officially closed, making trade increasingly difficult. However, unlike the North-West, the South-West has maintained a certain level of economic activities.
Economic activities in the East, Adamawa, and North regions focus on trade, livestock, mining, agriculture, handicrafts, and forestry. Companies active in the areas of forestry, mining and agriculture support the local economy. The three regions have intense trade with neighboring countries (CAR, Congo, Chad) facilitated by National Road no. 10, which is the main supply route for CAR.
Central African refugees and the populations that host them share cultural, religious and linguistic affinities. The Fulani, Gbayas, Hausa, and Mboums from CAR have bonds of brotherhood and secular alliances with their Cameroonian hosts. They share the same sociocultural characteristics that strengthen the integration of refugees and life together.
The security situation in the Far North further deteriorated in 2020, due to the widespread insecurity in the Lake Chad region, with an increase in attacks by NSAGs, including suicide attacks and raids using improvised explosive devices (IEDs). In terms of the wider Lake Chad Basin region, 2020 has recorded the highest monthly numbers of security incidents attributed to NSAGs since 2018. Between 1 August and 30 September 2020, the total number of security incidents in the Lake Chad Basin attributed to NSAGs increased by 130 per cent compared to the same period in 2019.
In the North-West and South-West regions, high levels of insecurity continue. The presence of national security forces - police, gendarmerie, army - is concentrated along the main roads and cities, leaving most rural areas under the influence of NSAGs.
Other parts of Cameroon remain stable and offer relative security, therefore welcoming many refugees and internally displaced persons from other regions (including people from the North-West and South-West regions) and neighboring countries. However, in the East, Adamawa and North regions, security incidents, including urban crime, kidnappings, robberies and community clashes continue to be reported. Certain incidents such as kidnappings are mainly reported in the border area with CAR. However, security operations conducted by the Cameroonian defense and security forces in the CAR border areas led to a certain decrease of insecurity in these areas.
Existing legal and policy frameworks
Cameroon has adopted several international and regional conventions on human rights, international refugee law and international humanitarian law. Although there is an elaborate national legislative and regulatory framework its effectiveness is sometimes undermined by structural and administrative weaknesses.
The judicial system in Cameroon provides for courts of appeal at regional level and courts at divisional level. However, many existing laws and policy frameworks are not applied and access to the judiciary system is challenging in remote areas affected by insecurity. The population often resorts to other justice mechanisms, namely traditional chiefdoms, Imams and other community-religious mechanisms (conflict management committees, etc.) to settle their disputes.
The presence of the administration and of traditional authorities has been significantly affected by insecurity, especially in the North-West and South-West regions where NSAGs target State symbols and representatives. Furthermore, in these two regions, the implication of some customary leaders in national politics has likewise undermined their authority and acceptance by communities.
Infrastructure and technology
Cameroon has nearly 78,000 km of main roads, including 5,133 km of asphalted roads. However, in the Far North, the North-West, the East and Adamawa regions the road network is severely degraded, especially in the rainy season. The electricity network covers only a few localities and remains poor with an overall rate of household electrification at less than 15 per cent. Mobile telephone network excludes certain rural areas. In general, men have more telephone access than women. According to the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunication, the internet penetration rate in Cameroon stands at 35 per cent as of 2016. As per the World Bank, the penetration rate is stagnating since 2016.
Cameroon is exposed to climatic hazards (low or high rainfall depending on the season and the regions), leading to drought, floods, and landslides.
Cameroon is regularly affected by floods which cause loss of life, damage to houses, crops, livestock and road infrastructure, affecting hundreds of thousands of people at each occurrence. All regions of the country are exposed to it but those that have suffered the most serious damage to date are the Littoral, the Far North and the North regions.
Bush fires, which are often used to clear plots of land during the dry season, are a major risk of environmental destruction, especially in the savannah areas. The country is experiencing strong pressure on natural resources (wood, water, raffia palm groves, etc.) and mining.
Houses and facilities can quickly fall into ruin and be overgrown by brush growth when abandoned due to insecurity of displacement.
Pollution resulting from the exploitation of minerals and forests and the use of pesticides and insecticides in agriculture is increasing.
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